Long-distance truck drivers have appealed to East African Community head of states to curb increased armed violence targeting cargo convoys in South Sudan and compensate victims who lost lives and properties.
The call follows four separate armed attacks on the cargo fleet along the Nimule-Juba highway between March 17 and 30. Scores of truckers were waylaid, shot and their bodies burnt in trucks that were delivering goods to Juba. The dreadful attacks prompted both Ugandan and Kenyan truckers to abandon the delivery of the merchandise to South Sudan, leading to an increase in the prices of commodities in the oil-rich but war-torn African nation.
Mohamed Ismail Dollis, 33, a resident of Mackinnon Town in Kenya who survived one of the attacks says he sustained a fractured left leg and fingers. He says that he requires an urgent operation to remove a bullet that is stuck in his leg. Mohamed is among five other injured truckers who were evacuated from Nimule Hospital in South Sudan to Nairobi in Kenya last week for better health care. He has pleaded to East African governments to task South Sudan to compensate and treat him.
Batula Hussein, an elderly mother who lost his son Hashim Ismail, 36, in the attack told URN on a phone line that the deceased trucker was the only breadwinner in the family. Hashim’s body was reportedly burnt in his truck beyond recognition and buried in South Sudan.
Sudi Mwatela, the Organizing Secretary of Kenya Long-Distance Truck Drivers Union, said they have generated a list of 48 victims either killed or maimed by gunmen in South Sudan since 2015. He said the list will be reviewed by the South Sudan government within three months with help from the Ugandan Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Male Zedi, the Assistant Chairperson of the Uganda Long Distance Truck Drivers’ Association said that apart from the 13 bodies officially reported and retrieved, many bodies are still missing. They included 10 Ugandans, two Kenyans and an Eritrean national.
Geoffrey Oceng Osborn, the Amuru Resident District Commissioner and Chairperson of the District Security Committee says that they have tasked South Sudan to get rid of roadblocks along the Nimule-Juba highway, consider compensation of the attack victims and attach enough security personnel to cargo convoys among others to address the increased insecurity.
A joint security meeting held last week at the Elegu border post resolved that the South Sudan government should provide security to accompany the cargo convoys from Nimule border up to Juba and back to the border point of crossing.
David Otto Remson, the Commissioner of Magwi County in the Equatorial Province of South Sudan told URN in an interview that in compliance with the truckers’ demands, they have disbanded all security checkpoints along Nimule-Juba Highway.